Three of the four teams that took the court for the Class 4A state volleyball semifinals knew what it was like to win a state title.
Olympia, Jackson and Mead represented the last three state champions. It was state volleyball royalty.
But the winner wasn’t Olympia, the defending champion. It wasn’t Jackson High, which started the year nationally ranked.
Or Mead, the seven-time Class 4A champion.
No, the night belonged to the Bellarmine Prep Lions, who went through both of the pre-tournament favorites Saturday night at Marcus Pavilion to win their first state championship, beating Mead in five sets, 25-27, 25-13, 25-20, 16-25, 15-13.
Courtney Schwan dominated the fifth set, registering seven kills and helping the Lions take a 13-11 lead before a Claire Martin block gave the Lions match point.
Back charged Mead, pulling within a point at 14-13.
But Schwan sealed it the way she kicked off the set, coming up with a big kill which gave Bellarmine the win and the title.
Mead, which swept its first three opponents, including defending champion Olympia in the semifinals, was attempting to win its eighth state title and first since 2009, but had to settle for runner-up status.
Both teams struggled through several unforced errors in the first set, including five serving errors for Bellarmine.
The Panthers took match point at 24-21, but back charged the Lions, evening things up twice with the last coming at 25-25.
Maddy Underwood, one of 11 seniors of Mead’s roster, followed up Hannah Zalopany’s kill with one of her own to put away the first set, 27-25.
The teams traded points to start the second set, but the Lions were able to gradually pull away as the Panthers looked lost several times during play. Whatever momentum Mead was able to create was easily wrestled away by some powerful swings from Bellarmine’s Reghan Pukis and Schwan down the stretch.
A Mead error ended it, 25-13, giving each squad a set.
Both Schwan and Zalopany came out swinging in the third set, leading to a 10-10 tie.
Schwan continued to control the net, getting help from Emily Newberry and Katy DeGroot as the Bellarmine lead ballooned to 21-15 before a Mead serving error ended it, 25-20.
The Panthers raced out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth, finding an offensive rhythm and going on to win, 25-15.
Bellarmine hadn’t placed higher than sixth at the state tournament – a feat it accomplished in 1994 and 2006.
The Lions could be prepared for another run as they return 10 players from this squad, including libero Julie Wright and U.S. Youth National Team member Schwan, who has verbally committed to the University of Washington.